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US Congress approves new Iran sanctions

The US Congress has approved new sanctions against Iran, targeting Iran's energy and shipbuilding sectors.

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An Iranian woman walks past a mural painting of a revolver on the walls of the former US embassy in Tehran. (Atta Kenare/AFP/Getty Images)

The US House of Representatives passed new sanctions against Iran on Wednesday, aiming to punish banks, insurance companies and shippers that help Tehran sell its oil, Reuters reported.

According to Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Foreign Affairs committee chair, these are the toughest sanctions yet imposed on Iran over its refusal to rein in its nuclear program. It passed by the Senate by a unanimous consent vote, AFP reported.

"This bipartisan, bicameral agreement seeks to tighten the chokehold on the regime beyond anything that has been done before," Ros-Lehtinen told the House.

The new sanctions build on the oil trade sanctions that were signed into law by Obama in December, and have prompted Japan, South Korea, India and other to cut down their purchases of Iranian oil, Reuters reported.

"There is more we can do, more that we will do if Iran doesn't end its nuclear weapons program verifiably and completely," said Representative Howard Berman, the top Democrat on the foreign affairs panel.

The bill was endorsed by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, a powerful pro-Israel lobby group, which said the measure "represents the strongest set of sanctions to isolate any country in the world during peacetime."

According to the Wall Street Journal, though Israeli leaders had dismissed the idea that US-led sanctions would convince Iran to give up its nuclear program, US officials said that they were prepared to act militarily in the future, and were hopeful Israel wasn't planning a unilateral strike for now.  

According to Congressment Ron Paul and Dennis Kucinich these sanctions will push the US closer to war with Iran.

According to Bloomberg Business Week, the sanctions are already costing IRan $133 million a day in lost sales, but aren't raising global crude prices. Shipments from Iran have plunged by 1.2 million barrels a day (a decrease of 52 percent), since the sanctions began on July 1, Bloomberg found.

“There were a lot of concerns sanctions could backfire by causing an oil-price spike, but in the end the US. and Europeans got their cake and they ate it too, because volumes are down and prices are down," said Mike Wittner, head of oil-market research for the Americas at Societe General SA in a phone interview with Bloomberg.

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/middle-east/iran/120802/us-congress-approves-new-iran-sanctions